Greece is the first gateway to Europe mainland for refugees and migrants, crossing the East borders of Greece (from northeast Evros River to southeast Aegean Sea) including Greece’s capital, Athens.
In September 2011, Greece started constructing a 12,5 Km ‘anti-immigration’ fence across Evros River which is the natural Greek-Turkish border. From December 2012, the safest and easiest route to Europe has been shut down. The only alternative is the dangerous sea crossing of the Aegean Sea from Turkey, mostly to the Greek Island of Lesbos. Migrants and asylum seekers, in most cases, don’t have legal papers and passports in order to continue their journey. They get stuck within the borders of the city and the greater region.
A part of their journey:
“My name is Mohammed , I’m from Syria. I used to be a university student”.
“My name is Omar, I am from Syria. I came to Greece before two years and three months. I came from Istanbul.”
“I went of course to Turkey at first, from Turkey I came to Greece. I spent too much money for the smugglers to bring me here.”
“We arrived near the borders of Greece, from there we walked for three hours to reach the border, after three hours of walking we reached the river. The one that is near Alexandroupolis.”
“There we were 20 people, we had two boats and in each boat got 10 people, in our boat we were all from Syria. It was very difficult, because no one knew how to paddle. When we got there (in the Greek side), police was shouting to us, to go back to Turkey. The guys from the other boat, from Morocco, Afghanistan and Pakistan, ran towards Greece.”
“We got out from the boat. The police shouted to us “back!”. To turn back, to cross the border and go to Turkey. I did not want to go because I don’t know how to swim, neither the two women did and of course the baby.”
“We went back on the boat.”
“The boat was drifting in the middle of the river. It kept drifting. We were afraid and we shouted for help “Help me! Help me! Help me!” But the police had hidden and we didn’t know what to do.”
“I told myself that my life ends here”.
“Now I’m in Greece, looking for a legal way at least to get me out of here. We have to go out, we need to go out! When you need to go out, you have no (other) way but the land way, the airport and all of that are illegal of course.”
“Here (now) I want to build my life in order to be able go somewhere else (in the future).”
In December 2014, Mohammed crossed the borders with Skopje. This was his fifth attempt. In January 2015, he arrived in Austria.
In August 2015, Omar left Greece towards western Europe. He currently lives in Germany.
About the author:
Orestis Seferoglou was born in 1990. He lives and works in Athens, Greece as a freelance photographer. In 2014, he was selected to participate in the 7-month International Masterclass by VII Photo Agency in Milan. He has been published in various greek magazines such as EPSILLON, BHMAgazino, METRO and more Seferoglou is collaborating with SOOC photo agency and he is working as a freelance photographer for VICE Greece. Since 2013, he has been working on his ongoing project ‘My Name Is’ focused on the current issue of the refugee and migration crisis in Greece.